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Cheapest place to live in the world

The cheapest place to live in the world is Pakistan, according to Numbeo's 2024 Cost of Living Index. This crowd-sourced global database assigns each country a cost of living (CoL) number based on rent, grocery and restaurant prices, and local purchasing power (the consumers' ability to buy goods and services within their income). The other countries in the top five are Nigeria, Libya, India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan has low labour costs, resulting in cheaper services. Plus, the value of the Pakistani rupee is low compared to currencies like the US dollar or the euro, making goods and services appear comparatively more affordable.

The country's large agricultural sector also plays a crucial role in providing affordable, locally-produced food, which reduces the cost of basic necessities. Furthermore, government subsidies on essential goods such as fuel, electricity, and food and low housing costs help lower consumers' CoL.

Woman in a polka dot dress looking at a yellow tram in Portugal


Countries with low cost of living and high quality of life

Countries with a low cost of living and high quality of life include Costa Rica, Portugal and Malaysia. Here's some more information about these dream destinations: 


This Western European nation is popular with families, digital nomads, retirees and anyone searching for affordable living, safe streets, stunning landscapes, and a pleasant year-round climate. Cities like Lisbon and Porto provide a high quality of life comparable to other major European cities but with lower housing costs. Healthcare is tax-funded, accessible and affordable, and the country is known for its welcoming, friendly locals. Plus, Portugal's just a short flight away from popular tourist countries like Spain, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany!

Costa Rica: 

The cost of living in Costa Rica is lower than in many Western nations, with affordable housing, healthcare and food options. Transportation is also reasonably priced, with a monthly transit pass costing an estimated CRC21,739 (US$41). The country's focus on environmental sustainability (with abundant national parks and ambitious plans to decarbonise its economy by 2050), beautiful weather and stunning natural landscapes contribute to an overall sense of well-being.


Not only does a move to Malaysia offer immigrants affordable housing and delicious yet cheap street food, but the country's healthcare system is ranked 49th best in the world by the World Health Organisation. Compared to London, Penang has a 60.8% lower CoL, 87% lower rents and 38.8% cheaper groceries. Moreover, its blend of captivating cultural diversity, modern amenities and golden beaches makes it an ever-popular destination.

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Lowest cost of living countries

The lowest cost of living countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tunisia and Sri Lanka, based on findings from Data Pandas. Factors considered include housing, utility and food costs, and the affordability of goods and services. Overall, the monthly CoL per person in Afghanistan is just USD354, followed closely by Paristan at USD370.

Conversely, Monaco, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Ireland and Liechtenstein were the most expensive places to live on the list. The average monthly CoL in Monaco is an eye-watering USD3,743.


Pakistan vs the US — what can you buy for $10?:

The shopping cart below shows what groceries you can buy for $10 in Pakistan:


Graphic showing groceries for $10 in Pakistan


Here's a cart with the products you could buy with $10 in the USA:


Graphic showing groceries for $10 in the US

Source: Numbeo — Cost of Living

What is a cost of living index?

A cost of living index is a metric that compares the relative cost of living in various worldwide locations. It considers expenses such as housing, food and transportation, plus citizens' ability to afford goods and services, to indicate how expensive living in a city or country is compared to another.

For example, a city like New York may be used as a baseline score, set at 100. Other cities are then assigned scores such as 120 if 20% more expensive or 80 if 20% less expensive. CoL indexes are invaluable tools for travellers, immigrants and retirees looking to make informed decisions about moving overseas.


Collage of Kansas images
Kansas also tops the charts regarding affordable places for families, with Overland Park ranking the cheapest...

Cheapest places to live in the US

The cheapest places to live in the US are Wichita for singles and Overland Park for families. Both are in Kansas and stand out for their affordability without compromising quality of life.

US property website Renthop recently surveyed the country's most affordable cities for single-income households. Wichita, Kansas, came out on top, with an average studio apartment costing singletons just $565 per month, roughly 17.65% of their wage. The largest city in Kansas, with a population of around 397,000, is known as the "Air Capital of the World" due to its large aerospace industry. Popular attractions include the Wichita Art Museum and the Botanica and Wichita Gardens.

Kansas also tops the charts regarding affordable places for families, with Overland Park ranking the cheapest according to Yahoo Finance's list.
The methodology included housing costs and factors that influence raising a family, such as the quality of public schools. With a population of roughly 200,000, the city has a homely, suburban feel with plenty of urban amenities, perfect for young families. Key attractions include the Overland Park Arboretum and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art.


Cheapest countries to live in Europe

The cheapest countries to live in Europe are Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia.

While Europe includes several countries with a high CoL, such as the UK, France, and Norway, there are also many attractive EU destinations at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Factors you must consider include living expenses (such as food and rent) and the nation's safety, climate, and prosperity. Based on CoL alone, the ten most affordable countries in Europe, according to Numbeo, are as follows:

  1. Belarus
  2. Ukraine
  3. Russia
  4. Kosovo
  5. North Macedonia
  6. Moldova
  7. Bosnia And Herzegovina
  8. Serbia
  9. Bulgaria
  10. Romania

Although Ukraine and Russia are high on the list, note that both countries are at war as of 2024.

According to the Global Peace Index 2023, the top five safest countries in Europe to live in are Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, Austria and Portugal. If the climate is a deciding factor for you and your family, the five warmest nations, according to the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIS), are Cyprus, France, Italy, Greece and Malta.

Collage of cheap European countries

What is the cheapest state in America?


The cheapest state in America is Mississippi, where cost of living is

21% lower than US avg.

Source: Best Places


Road in the jungle in the Philippines
Food and housing in Vietnam are around two-thirds cheaper than in the US.

Cheapest tropical places to live

The cheapest tropical places to live are the Philippines, Vietnam and Panama. If your lifelong ambition is to settle in a tropical paradise but you don't have endless supplies of money, don't worry. Whether you're a retiree, student or expat on the move, these destinations offer affordability, breathtaking landscapes and a warm climate.

The Philippines, featuring popular islands like Cebu and Palawan, is full of dreamy, turquoise waters, sporting adventures, waterfalls and long, golden beaches. Housing, food, and transportation are all affordable, with rent on average a massive 70% lower compared to the UK.

Moving to Vietnam is fast becoming a popular choice for expats. Dreamy cities like Da Nang and Nha Trang offer low living costs, modern infrastructure, and pristine beaches ideal for swimming, sunbathing and watersports. Food and housing in Vietnam are around two-thirds cheaper than in the US.

Finally, Panama stands out as an affordable tropical paradise thanks to a combination of low living costs, lush rainforests, pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. The country's use of the US dollar and tax-funded essential healthcare free at the point of use add to the attraction. The overall cost of living is, on average, 25.6% lower than in the UK, with rent around 35.5% lower.


Cheapest places to retire

The cheapest places to retire are Chiang Mai (Thailand), Querétaro (Mexico) and Alicante (Spain). If you need to stretch your retirement savings, these locations offer an affordable cost of living alongside a comfortable and pleasant lifestyle.

Chiang Mai, Thailand, has seen significant population growth over the last twenty years due to its affordable cost of living, harmonious mix of cultures, stunning scenery and sunny climate. According to World Population Review, the city's population grew from 571,716 in 2004 to 1,228,773 in 2024 — a 114% increase! The Northern Thailand hotspot also boasts a large expatriate community, making it easier for retirees to settle into their new surroundings.

Retiring in Querétaro, Mexico, has become increasingly popular among expatriates due to its colonial architecture, high living standards and vibrant cultural scene. UNESCO World Heritage sites sit alongside modern amenities such as shopping malls and medical facilities. There is easy access to international flights from nearby Mexico City, the climate is an ideal year-long warm but not too warm, and a city centre one-bedroom apartment costs roughly MXN10,750 (around USD584). 

Many senior expats dream of spending their golden years in the south of Spain. Luckily, Alicante offers retirees precisely that at an affordable cost. Famous for its chilled-out seaside atmosphere, historic towns, warm summers, and a large number of expats, the city of Costa Blanca is an alluring destination. According to property website Idealista's data, the Alicante province has the highest concentration of properties for sale under EUR150,000 (around USD161,000) in Southern Europe.

House on a cliff by the ocean in Spain